Nate Chinen

Director of Editorial Content

Nate Chinen has been writing about jazz for more than 20 years.

He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Director of Editorial Content at WBGO, Chinen works with the multiplatform program Jazz Night in America and contributes a range of coverage to NPR Music.

He is author of Playing Changes: Jazz For the New Centurypublished in hardcover by Pantheon in 2018, and on paperback by Vintage in 2019. Hailed as one of the Best Books of the Year by NPR, GQ, Billboard, and JazzTimes, it's a chronicle of jazz in our time, and an argument for the music's continuing relevance. It has also been published internationally, in Italian and Spanish editions. 

A thirteen-time winner of the Helen Dance–Robert Palmer Award for Excellence in Writing, presented by the Jazz Journalists Association, Chinen is also coauthor of Myself Among Others: A Life in Music, the 2003 autobiography of festival impresario and producer George Wein, which earned the JJA’s award for Best Book About Jazz.

Chinen was born in Honolulu, to a musical family: his parents were popular nightclub entertainers, and he grew up around the local Musicians Union. He went to college on the east coast and began writing about jazz in 1996, at the Philadelphia City Paper. His byline has also appeared in a range of national music publications, including DownBeat, Blender and Vibe. For several years he was the jazz critic for Weekend America, a radio program syndicated by American Public Media. And from 2003 to 2005 he covered jazz for the Village Voice.

His work appears in Best Music Writing 2011 (Da Capo); Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt (Duke University Press, 2012), and Miles Davis: The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press, 2012).

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Bill May / williamwmay.net

Charli Persip, whose career as a leading jazz drummer included close associations with Dizzy Gillespie, Randy Weston and many others — along with nearly 40 years at the helm of his own big band, SuperSound — died at Mt. Sinai Morningside in New York City on Sunday.

Chick Corea Productions

Along with the latest from saxophonists Alan Braufman and Dave Pietro.

Rolf Ambor / CTSIMAGES

Ella Fitzgerald had a brilliant night in Germany 60 years ago, as captured on the iconic album Ella in Berlin: Mack the Knife. 

Elliot Ross

A few years ago, cornetist and composer Ron Miles managed what I consider something of a hat trick. He played on, and helped define, not one but three extraordinary jazz albums — all of which landed on my year-end best in 2017.

It’s never a bad time to talk about Thelonious Monk. His indomitable music and incorruptible example serve as a renewable resource, because there’s always something fresh to uncover, another brilliant corner to explore.

Dorthaan Kirk can vividly recall the evening she introduced her fellow 2020 NEA Jazz Master, the esteemed bassist Reggie Workman, for an event at the Montclair Art Museum. It was March 5 — just 24 weeks ago, though it almost feels like another lifetime.

The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, America's highest honor reserved for jazz musicians, is typically bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts in grand fashion with a gala and all-star tribute concert.

The NEA Jazz Masters fellowship, America's highest honor reserved for jazz musicians, is typically bestowed by the National Endowment for the Arts in grand fashion with a gala and all-star tribute concert. This year it was set to take place at San Francisco's SFJAZZ Center in April, but it had to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic. And so, like the artists being honored, the NEA opted to improvise, transforming the event into a virtual presentation with musicians beaming in from locales across the country.

Steve Grossman, a saxophonist whose lunging projection, sure rhythmic footing and clarity of attack helped propel him into the spotlight in the 1970s, notably in bands led by Miles Davis and Elvin Jones, died on Aug. 13 at Glen Cove Hospital in Glen Cove, N.Y. He was 69. The cause was cardiac arrest after a long illness, his brother Myles Grossman confirmed to NPR.

National Endowment for the Arts

Originally set for early April at SFJAZZ, the 2020 NEA Jazz Masters gala and concert was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. It was remade into an online experience, hosted by 2017 NEA Jazz Master Dee Dee Bridgewater. So it felt only appropriate to turn this week’s Take Five into an NEA Jazz Masters sampler. Here’s to the Class of 2020! 

WBGO

One year ago, WBGO bid a reluctant farewell to Rhonda Hamilton, whose voice has been a beacon for our audience since Day 1. 

Pianist Micah Thomas is having the jazz equivalent of a standout rookie season. Just within the last several weeks, he finished his graduate studies at Juilliard and released a terrifically assured debut album called Tide.

It introduces an artist of superb technical facility, along with something even more striking — a deep understanding of the sprawling lineage of modern jazz piano and a youthful determination not to get caught retracing anybody's steps.

David Redfern / Redferns/Getty

Right about now, in any other year, many of us would be gearing up for a trip to Newport, R.I.

This year, of course, is different. The Newport Jazz Festival is one of countless pleasures put on hold, with a hopeful marker in place for next year. Which got us thinking not only about what we’re missing, but also about what the festival means — as a summer ritual, as a rite of passage, as a historical nexus, as a brand name.

Helen Jones Woods, who played trombone with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a history-making all-female big band that toured widely during World War II, died of COVID-19 on July 25 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 96.

Her daughter Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of the broadcast media company Urban One, confirmed the details of her death to NPR.

Helen Jones Woods, who played trombone with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, a history-making all-female big band that toured widely during World War II, died of COVID-19 on July 25 in Sarasota, Fla. She was 96.

Her daughter Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of the broadcast media company Urban One, confirmed the details of her death to NPR.

Gai Terrell / Redferns/Getty

We couldn’t make it to the Newport Jazz Festival this year, but we’ll still be swinging.

After the COVID-related cancelations of both the jazz and folk festivals in Newport, our friends at the Newport Festivals Foundation got to work on a contingency plan. Central to that effort was a series of broadcasts pulling from their historic trove of festival recordings, stretching back some 65 years.

Ken Franckling

Christian McBride was 19, a vigorous young bassist just making his name on the scene, when he paid his first visit to the Newport Jazz Festival as a member of Jazz Futures. Skip ahead some 30 years, and McBride is the artistic director of the festival, as well as our esteemed host at Jazz Night in America. It's in these dual capacities that he helped curate the music in our three-part Newport Jazz Festival Special.

Christian McBride was 19, a vigorous young bassist just making his name on the scene, when he paid his first visit to the Newport Jazz Festival as a member of Jazz Futures. Skip ahead some 30 years, and McBride is the artistic director of the festival, as well as our esteemed host at Jazz Night in America. It's in these dual capacities that he helped curate the music in our three-part Newport Jazz Festival Special.

Newport Festivals Foundation

The Newport Jazz Festival was in full, glorious stride during the 1960s, featuring top-shelf talent not only from jazz but also the realms of soul, rock and more.

The Newport Jazz Festival was in full, glorious stride during the 1960s, featuring top-shelf talent not only from jazz but also the realms of soul, rock and more. That's the backdrop for The Stars Shine, episode two of our three-part Newport special.

Six years ago, Maria Schneider, the meticulous jazz composer and orchestrator, embarked on a project with David Bowie, the polymorphic pop vanguardist.

Boston Globe / Getty Images

The Newport Jazz Festival was just one year old when the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet blazed onto its stage in 1955. By 1960, when pianists Dave Brubeck and Horace Silver each played a rollicking set, the event was an institution, known all over the world. And so it remains today — though there's something to be said about the fest in that formative era, when every step forward was historic.

The Newport Jazz Festival was just one year old when the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet blazed onto its stage in 1955. By 1960, when pianists Dave Brubeck and Horace Silver each played a rollicking set, the event was an institution, known all over the world. And so it remains today — though there's something to be said about the fest in that formative era, when every step forward was historic.

Gregory Porter was aboard a plane when he wrote “Concorde,” the opening track from his sixth studio album, ALL RISE.

The first time around was special, and everyone knew it. But ask any member of the former Joshua Redman Quartet — Redman on saxophones, Brad Mehldau on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Brian Blade on drums — and he'll confirm there was some magic in the air when they reconvened last fall at The Falcon in New York's Hudson Valley, breaking a 25-year hiatus.

David Redferns / Redferns

It’s never a bad time to celebrate Art Blakey, the indefatigable drummer, towering bandleader and peerless mentor.

But the occasion of a new release by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, just out on Blue Note, is reason enough to hijack this edition of Take Five with a Blakey beat. This hardly begins to scratch the surface of his monumental recorded legacy — but it gives some picture of what he was about. Beginning with a cut from the newly unearthed album, it goes on to cover some of his work as a sideman, and later as a guardian of tradition.

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